My Escape from Alcatraz – some pictures

Posted on June 19, 2012. Filed under: charity, coach pedro, cold shock, cycle, escape, escape 2012, escape from alcatraz, escape from alcatraz 2012, leanda cave, leanda cave alcatraz, leanda cave alcatraz 2012, MAF, make a wish, make a wish foundation, make a wish foundation sponsorship, race report, race review, run, san francisco, san francisco belle, sponsorship, swim, t0.5, triathlon, water world swim, wetsuit |

Okay, clearly the next post should have been the run but while I momentarily grapple with writer’s block, or perhaps just banish the traumas of the run and work through my jet lag, I thought I would post some nice pictures and videos from around the web of the Escape.  It is a beautiful city, with an iconic race, captured on the perfect kind of day where you could just about lose three layers of skin from the sun burn (or you absolutely could if you are a pasty Scotsman)!!

I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a camera with me at 5am to take pictures of the gorgeous sunrise as we arrived at the San Francisco Belle at Pier 3 but the lovely Leanda Cave, a four times winner of the Escape, a Brit no less and a great photographer apparently, did bring her camera along.  And guess what?  She kindly gave me permission to use her pictures!  I would recommend clicking through the link on Leanda’s name to her blog and read what the action looked like “up the front ” of the race.  It sounds about as tough as my race but a little quicker.  With less sunburn.  In my defence there was a lot of nice stuff to look at so I didn’t want to rush things.

Although the air temperature was a balmy 16C (well, for a pasty Scotsman that is way beyond tropical!) when we started the race, the water temperature was just under 13C.  If you can’t work that out, take it from me, it is so cold it makes you involuntarily shout “this water is effing cold” once the silent scream has passed and the panic subsides into pain.  Cold shock, incidentally, is why most people (usually fuelled by beer and bravado) drown on really hot days when they decide to jump into a river unprepared for the cold.  And now for the educational bit.  Even if you are aware of the symptoms of cold shock it is still really scary.  Trust me – having seriously thought for a large chunk of the Great Scottish Swim three years ago that a helicopter was actually stealing my breath – rational thought does not come easily as your chest is gripped by the cold.  It is really important not to treat cold water flippantly even if you are chasing Phelps for Olympic dominance.

Cold shock is caused by rapid skin cooling and your body trying to swiftly recycle warm blood.  It can kill within three to five minutes after a sudden dunking. On the initial dook, you gulp a huge gasp of air, followed by severe hyperventilation.  It’s not unusual for your breath rate to quadruple and experience up to 65 breaths per minute.  At this point there is no chance that you can hold your breath so best not to try.  In fact, in water below 16C (ie a really shallow, toasty Scottish loch), your breath-holding ability is reduced by 25–50 percent.  Cold shock also causes a massive increase in heart rate and blood pressure which, as you can imagine, is a precarious position to be in.  You can also experience brain freeze and sore teeth (oh yes, I have had all the symptoms!).  This intensity lasts two to three minutes and will settle down after about five minutes.  Those three minutes when you are neck deep in ice and chasing off polar bears feel like three lifetimes.  Jumping off the San Francisco Belle with 2000 other muppets unprepared for the cold is not a pastime to be taken lightly.

Now, schools out, how about some art?!

The San Jose Mercury News captured some fantastic pictures of the San Francisco Belle sitting off Alcatraz just after a scenic lap of the Rock where no-one except the sponsors were really  interested in sight-seeing.  The pictures are of the pro start before the hordes poured into the Bay.

Our hero Leanda Cave crossing the line to Escape Alcatraz and my top tip for a British lady Ironman World Champion this year.  Leanda is currently second in the Kona Pro Rankings and on target for a great performance after dominating the Escape.

These are some pictures that Coach Pedro took  from a support boat during the Escape.  It is pretty intimidating swimming as hard as you can against the current, looking at a beach and wondering how you could possibly get off it for the number of people.  Once the water drained out of my ears and the blood returned to my head the noise from the crowd was deafening.  San Franciscans treat their Alcatraz swim as Londoner’s treat their marathon.

The three conical yellow buoys in the last picture were not there when I swam the end of the race the Friday before.  They are considerably bigger than the buoys that I had got used to sighting and with Bay water sloshing about in my head, the cold numbing my toes and with my steamed up, googly eyes just about three inches above an increasingly turbulent Bay I may have got confuddled.  That confusion cost me about ten extra minutes swimming.  Hard.  Against a current! To give you some idea the current is flowing fast from left to right across the photo.  I battled in from the right and between the nearest and middle buoy.  I was proper done in when I eventually beached.

Another great blogger NadiaMac, has posted some fantastic pictures that give a great view of some of the obstacles – the first steps that we encountered on the run, the Baker Beach turnaround and the infamous Sand Ladder.  More on those when I can overcome the trauma to write up the run.

Finally, since most people ask about the crazy start, here are a couple of videos from the 2012 Escape start.  No further comment from me is required really except to say, yes it is mental, and yes I am also probably a little mental.

Remember, though, as much fun as this looks I am not just doing it for fun.  During this summer I hope to raise £4000 to grant a wish for one young person, suffering a life threatening illness, and their family.  After just three weeks we are half way towards giving that family great memories that will stay with them forever.  Please help, even a little donation has a big impact if enough of us do it so please share this link with your friends, families, colleagues, teams and anyone else that might want to help.  We are making a difference!
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!




The Alcatraz Test Swim

Escape Complete

My Escape From Alcatraz – The Swim

My Escape From Alcatraz – The Bike

My Escape From Alcatraz – Some Pictures

My Escape From Alcatraz – The Run

Final Thoughts on Escape


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